As we make resolutions at this time of the year it’s important that we do not miss the first step in setting goals. Too often we make plans and then ask God to bless them. James calls this arrogance. It’s a practical atheism (believing in God but living as if He doesn’t exist). Most of us do not think of ourselves as boastful people, because we do not go around making people listen to our bragging. As a good discipler, however, James makes us examine more subtle forms of boasting. Our arrogance is revealed when we assume that we control time and events. By using the categories that James offers in Chapter 4:13 we can see how comprehensively we do this.
James challenges 4 categories that reveal our arrogance when:
1. We name the TIME- “Today or tomorrow”.
2. We state our PURPOSE- “we will go”
3. We name the PLACE “to this or that city”
4. We state our GOALS “to carry on business”
5. We name our REWARD “make money”
What else is there than time, purpose, place, goals, and reward?
So are we not supposed to plan? Notice he does not say “don’t plan”. In vs. 15 he says, “Instead”… plan this way… “if it is the Lord’s will”. As a pastor, of all the questions I’m asked, the most common centers around God’s will. “What is God’s will for my life?” “How can I know God’s will for my life?” “How can I discover God’s will for my life?” This is a question we all ask- but we don’t realize that we’re actually asking the wrong question. This question actually betrays our arrogance and the self-centered nature of prayer. What is God’s will for my life is overshadowed by a more important question. The better question is not, “What is God’s will for my life?” but simply, “What is God’s will?” I’ve discovered this question brings much greater clarity to what God would have me do. Now some may say I’m wrestling in semantics, but I think not…
The KEY question: “Lord, what is Your will?” Here’s the power and greater clarity of this question: We already know what His will is. His will is for you to know Him, to receive His grace and to love Him with all our heart, soul mind, and strength. His will is for you to grow to become just like Jesus. His will is for you to allow Him to continually transform you into His likeness. His will is for you to show His love to the world- starting right where you are. His will is for you to worship Him, become His disciple, and to live as a missionary for His glory everywhere you go.
What is God’s will? To give your life fully to Him- regarding TIME, PURPOSE, PLACE, GOALS, and REWARDS- they are ALL in His hand. That’s His will and that’s His will for your life. As for where you live, where you go, what you will say, and who you will encounter along the way- simply trust Him with all of that. In short, His will is for you to be His disciple.
Read Luke 9:23-25. The call to discipleship is an ever-expanding release of my life to Him. How counter-intuitive this is to our way of living, how counter-cultural. In this upside down kingdom the call is to self-denial and to a glorious release of all we are to become the very best of all that God has created us to be, all to HIS glory. I become fully “me” when I release all things that I have planned for myself.
Read Jeremiah 29:11. “I know the plans I have for you…” Notice: They are His plans and He knows them. So, the key question seems to be “How do I know His plans?” It is by seeking Him with my whole heart. It’s good to note: ultimately the journey is not to a place of position but to a Person. It’s in knowing HIM that I know His ways. In the end- Our calling is not to a place or to a plan or a position but to a Person- Jesus Christ. We can make resolutions but the highest calling of our lives is to Jesus Himself. He said, “Come, follow ME.”
The Gospel alone can empower this kind of shift- from my will to His will. Jesus gave up all control so that we can know everything is under control. When we see the King of creation losing control upon the cross, our fears are destroyed and our courage rises up- because of His love and because of the hope of resurrection!
Here’s my challenge: Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands and step out into an invincible future with Him. Give your life fully to Him.
Why not now?